Monday, November 15, 2010

"pretend that...."

We just got back from three days in Baltimore with our son and daughter-in-law, Josh and Cathy, and our three grandaughters--Morgan and Emma (4) and Tegan (1). For some 36 hours (while J and C went to a party at Josh's law firm and a wedding in New York overnight) it was just Bern and I with the 3 girls.

A reason people have children when they are young--they exhaust people my age!

But the time with the girls was wonderful, astonishing, without melt down or incident. Josh and Cathy don't quite believe, I don't think, how pacific the time was for us--our little tribe of 5 with a combined age of 132 (123 of those years being Bern and me).

(An unrelated but connected aside--whenever we leave our dog at the Kennel--Holiday Hills in Wallingford, I give it 5 stars, they tell us he is a great dog with no problems. But our experience of him is that he is a bad dog we love anyway. Same with the reports we got on Josh and Mimi from grandparents, teachers, their friends' parents--Who Are Those kids they told us about??? It's a rule of the universe that children, put into an unfamiliar situation, will behave in ways they never do with their parents. Go figure.)

Bern and I come at the girls from two very different world views and understandings. Bern was, for 14 years, the coordinator of The Childrens Day Care, a cooperative center in New Haven. The parents of the children were the care givers and Bern was the only paid staff. So she has met 4 year old children over and over and over. Her insights into the 4 year old behavior that befuddles and confuses me are remarkable. Bern knows kids.

Besides my own children, over 30 years ago, I've only had a passing acquaintance with 4 year olds or 1 year old kids.

So Bern interacts and plays and invents and engages. I mostly keep them safe and observe.

(I must admit how joyous I am that Tegan, who says only a handful of words, would yell 'Gan Pu' whenever I came back into the room and run and hug my knees. Heaven, that's what that was like....)

So, the point to all this is that I took Morgan and Emma to the top floor of Josh and Cathy's 4 story town house to play with their wondrous doll house and other things while Bern saw to Tegan and cooked. We were there for less than an hour and I mostly 'observed'.

What I observed was that for almost all that time either Morgan or Emma would say 'Pretend that....' (whatever), and they would play out what they pretended.

Their pretending was open and fluid and remarkably changeable. They play "pretend that I'm a baby and you're the Mommy" a lot and in an instant, introduced by one of them saying "Pretend That..." the roles can change.

When they disagreed on what to 'pretend that...." they found a third 'pretend that' which both could live into...'pretend into'?

They played seamlessly for maybe 45 minutes with a few props and the almost constant prompting of one of the other of them changing the flow of the game by saying "Pretend That..."

I was astonished and confounded and deeply moved.

Here's what I thought: why can't we grown up people be like Morgan and Emma and "pretend that..." and make that real just be agreeing to "pretend" it.

What if you and I would say:

"Pretend that everybody is God's child..." and lived out of that.

What if you and I would say:

"Pretend that those who are poor should be given what they need..." and lived out of that.

What if you and I would say:

"Pretend that people of different Faiths don't need to be enemies...." and lived out of that.

What if you and I would say:

"Pretend that someone's sexual orientation or gender identification doesn't matter, doesn't matter at all...." and lived out of that.

What if you and I would say:

"Pretend that those people who annoy and anger you are really part of your family and your friends..." and lived out of that.

I could keep doing "What if" and "Pretend that" for a long time.

But what if, you and I, would ponder the immense and extraordinary possibilities that "pretending" would create if we were only willing to play the game and "pretend".

(Kurt Vonnegut, my favorite writer, once wrote: "Be careful who you pretend to be because you might just turn out to be who you pretend to be...."

Ponder and imagine the power of 'pretending' to transform, not only our lives, but the world we live in.....

"Let's pretend...."


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some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.